80% of human genome has an active role or function
In 2001, scientists thought only 20,000 genes comprising about one per cent of the human genome code for proteins. And the remaining genome was at best considered junk DNA!
If many researchers doubted this, the ENCODE project (ENCyclopedia Of DNA Elements), which was started in 2003 and picked up where the Human Genome Project had left off, has been proving that it is far from true.
The junk DNA is indeed not a wasteland. “The vast desert regions have now been populated by hundreds of thousands of features that contribute to gene regulation. And every cell type uses different combinations and permutations of these features to generate its unique biology,” writes Brendan Maher, a Features Editor for Nature.
The researchers have presented today the results of 1,648 experiments done on 147 cell types.
To start with, the ENCODE project has found that not one per cent but 80.4 per cent of the genome has an active role or function. For instance, it could be “promoter” regions where “proteins bind to control gene expression” or “enhancer” regions that “regulate the expression of distant genes.”